Friday, November 18, 2016


Upon entering Rotisserie Georgette, you might think you've come upon one of those classic, old school New York holdovers, one of the few that have stood the test of time.  And while Georgette very well may endure, advancing its tenure, it is actually much newer on the scene than its looks would imply.  Georgette Farkas opened up her long-awaited solo venture in 2014, but the grand dining room exudes a dusty luxury of an earlier era.  Graced with high ceilings and generous square footage, the decor doesn't really take the best advantage of the bones of the room.  Drab, musty colored valances and glowy sconces are hung too low, truncating the room.  The eclectic mix of mirrors are a nice touch, but you're better off facing the back wall, covered in a showy blue and white tile and a glimpse into the kitchen, than towards the
 front, which looks a little dated and, frankly,  morose.  The room might appeal to the moneyed Upper East siders which it mostly attracts, but actually the restaurant needn't necessarily be a splurge: an excellent meal could be made of a variety of of options using a little penny-conscious savvy.  Or, one can go all out, truffles and fois, to make up a repast quite fit for a very special occasion.... or even have the repast be a special occasion.

The staff and waiters were certainly comptent, Ms. Farkas herself gliding through the dining room, seating patrons and keeping her expert eye to assure all the cogs were operating seamlessly.   But there lacked much affection between server and servee, beyond just the inquiry of having finished a dish or not, and consistently refilling glasses of water.   This didn't seem to affect much the temperament of guests, however, who all seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, in fact so much so that the noise level was surprisingly boisterous.  One would think the high ceilings and carpeted floors, as well as the proportionately mature clientele, might provide a more placid noise level, but I actually found myself leaning in on more than one occasion to hear my dining companion.    But most of the time, our mouths were too full to talk, happily full, as soon our food arrived.

The menu follows a steakhouse format: everything is quite strictly a la carte, so know that your roast half chicken with choice of sauces (I recommend the Grand Mere) is simply that.  All sides need to be commanded independently, which can make that $26 bird a little less economical as just a part of a meal, instead of comprising it.  Sizing is a bit inconsistent, too: salads are easily large enough to share, but a portion of roasted leeks was better off for an individual, although the chewy, meaty slice of rich slab bacon underneath the vertically propped
alliums made the dish all the more hefty, along with a creamy crushed egg vinaigrette.  The black truffles, which were the justification of its $18 price tag, weren't particularly flavorful, as slices of
cold truffles tend not to be.  It might be better to restrain your truffle budget to where it is employed with warm food stuffs, as that is where is really performs most gloriously.  For luxury, opt for the terrine of fois gras, its highlight a warming zesty apple chutney.  The fois itself plays its typical suave role, but with plain white toast as the co-star, the chutney definitely steals the show.

As for that chicken, its a plush and luxuriant bird, regardless of the chosen sauce.   Really, the chicken is so juicy and luscious it needs no augmentation, although I wholeheartedly recommend the sauce grand-mere with its mushrooms, red wine and bacon.  But all sauces sound like valiant counterparts, from the Provencal flecked with the classic herbs, Marocaine kicked with cumin and coriander, or a bright, verdant chimichurri.  That said, even the grand-mere has but a couple of errant floating mushrooms, so side dishes are pretty much a must, unless you consider the fat bulb of creamy, pungent garlic
 adequate roughage.  I cannot resist
roasted Brussels sprouts, a solid preparation with roasted apple and bacon so smoky it infiltrates the entire dish.  Even so, crispy
sunchoked or orange roasted
carrots might be a little more interesting.  And as the menu states, there are "Never Enough Potatoes" (most blatantly since the entrees come with NONE), so there are three versions to opt from: roasted, tarragon-inflected frites, or a hedonistic baked number stuffed with a Gruyere-laden mash.   Even fish is cooked on the rotisserie, and that $41 whole branzino, even though it's not listed
along with the other "Pour Deux", it is certainly sufficient for that many.  It's gleaming silvery skin can barely contain the flavorful tender flesh literally bursting through: I think this is the best simple whole roast fish I have ever had.  An herby tomato-fennel concasse atop was vibrant and flavorful, but I was afraid to use too much even to mask at all the wonderfully fresh fish.  But it was light enough just to enhance the flavors, and the whole dish was certainly the highlight of the menu.

Or was the Pavlova?  I loved this crispy meringue cocoon of  syrupy port-roasted plums bedecked with plump blackberries and a sprinkling of crunchy pistachio bits.  Supposedly there was a ginger granita lurking about somewhere in this little delight, but I'm not sure where it was hiding.  And while I'm not a chocolate person, the Souffle au Chocolat Amer was a marvelous chocolate option, the "amer" not to be mistaken for "American", it is unmistakably French for bitter, and an alluring subterfuge of fluffy cloud-like souffle relinquishing itself into a lusciously creamy bittersweet pudding beneath.  The extra three dark chocolate truffles aside may have been extraneous, but it would be silly to turn down extra truffles.
The coffee their using at Georgette is equally as lush and rich- even the decaf was wonderfully smooth and strong, an excellent counterpart to both desserts.   Its actually a good illustration of everything chez Rotisserie G.  She is using exemplary ingredients to their finest advantage.  There is little reinvention or modernism going on here, but sometimes if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

14 East 60th Street
tel.  1.212.390.8060

Saturday, November 5, 2016


San Carlo Osteria Piemonte is a big name for this tiny little West Village Italian gem.  I found my way here by good word from the trusted then-manager of Da Marcella nearby, and they suggestion was worthy.  The room is subtly lit, emphasizing its cozy, nook-like feel, and the congenial, welcoming staff compound this.  You are welcomed into their space, in Italian, and throughout the night the Italianness of the establishment just becomes more and more impactful.  The San Carlo team helms from the
 Piedmont region of Italy, and the menu is an inspired combination of traditional Northern Italian with a bit of modern whimsy.

They started us of with a lovely little bowl of chewy farro and diced market vegetables, fragrant with basil.  It's a dish that is also available on the menu as a primo, but it was offered as complimentary little nosh, in keeping with typical Italian generosity.  There are more little bites, labeled sfizi, such as a plush, ricotta filled squash blossom fried to a crisp, or crusty anchovy toasts whisked with herb butter.

Antipasti included a seasonal salad or one of grilled octopus, and a variety of crudi, some of which are nearly ample enough to either share or serve as entrees (or secondi, as the case may be), if you add a contorno, which is where I found my choice of appetizer.  While I was hesitant to get generic verdure grigliati for fear of just those generic verdure grigliati, these were anything but.  Robust, super-primo veggies- yes, the usual suspects, but seasoned to amplify their natural flavors to the ultimate degree, cooked just short of too much, toothsome yet tenderized.  Each veg was Noah's ark-style, two of each, so both of us at my two-top got a nice big sample of each specimen. Capesante con pure di rafano featured six fat little mollusks, buttery and sweet against a zippy puree of spunky horseradish smeared around the
 periphery.  A light eater could make a meal of these, and bigger appetites that go for the real secondi still might be challenged by their abundance.  

The primi, on the other hand, are classic first course portions, but regardless of how you fit theme into your meal, they are not to be missed.  Tajarin Superga live up to their braggadoccio, a dense spool of angel hair spun with brown butter infused with black truffles and safe, a decadent explosion of autumnal flavor.  On the lighter side is a fusilloni with shrimp and a lemony arugula pesto, or go heartier with the housemade agnolotti in a rich, meaty ragu.  The tajarin, however, pairs swimmingly with a contorno of sauteed wild mushrooms, salty with a truffled woodsiness.    Choosing a main course from the Secondi gets pricier... some of the items from this section approach the forty dollar mark.  But rest
 assured you'll get both quantity and quality for the price.    Unlike a classic secondo, bare on the plate, entrees here come with ample garnish: a vegetable and starch in every case.  Bone-in veal is pounded thin and breaded in the Milanese, joined by a zesty arugula salad and roasted potatoes, while a behemoth pan-seared split full chicken breast (free-range) shares a crowded platter with both fava and cannellini beans, and a thick tomato-pepper sauce called bagnet rosso, a classic Piedmont-style ragout.

Dinner might fill you up too much for dessert, which would be too bad, considering the options.  Pears poached in red wine and spices, or a minty semifreddo with spicy chocolate sauce await, or take the opportunity to try the Bönet, a traditional Piedmont pudding like a fudgy flan dusted with crumbled amaretti.  If you forgot to save room, however, finish your meal with an outstanding limoncello, tart and icy-fresh.  Reality always sets in inevitably, but for the moment you'll really believe in la bella vita, thanks to San Carlo.

Tel: 212.625.1212 / 212.625.1232